Making changes – you know what you want to do but here’s how to do it

Mental Health

Dr. Happy

We’ve all been there; and we’ve all experienced those emotions. That place you know things are not right; that feeling of discomfort and distress associated with not being where you want to be and/or who you want to be.

It’s not at all pleasant and it shouldn’t be where we want to spend our lives.

So, you identify an aspect of yourself or your life you’d like to improve or change; you take some time to reflect and set a goal. You tell yourself things will be different and that you can do it this time around.

And now you can visualise it; that better life. You get all excited about being happier, healthier, more productive; about having more and better-quality relationships. Your best possible self is within reach; and it looks and feels so good!

And then nothing.

A week later, things are the same; a month later you’re wondering what on earth happened. You were so keen and so determined; yet life just continued on the same and that lack of purpose and satisfaction remain along with the stench of disappointment.

It’s happened before; and once again you feel you’ve let yourself down. “What’s going on?” you ask. “Why have I failed yet again?”

This is what I call “the knowing-doing gap”. So many of us “know” what we want or need to do; but so few of us “do” what’s required for real and meaningful change.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. We can make positive changes. And notably, these changes can stick. Where you are now need not be where you are in the future. But it will be if you continue on as you are now.

The Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu once said: If you do not change direction, you may well end up where you are heading.

At the same time, however, if you diligently apply the following simple strategies then positive change and a more positive future can be yours. So, give them some thought and more importantly, give them your time and energy (although, sometimes, it is the thought that counts more often than not, actions speak louder than words!):

  • Set SMART goals (that is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed)
  • Build motivation (weigh up the pros and cons of any changes you’re considering and do all you can to generate more advantages than disadvantages – then focus on these benefits)
  • Build the steps in to your daily/weekly routine (break your goals down in to small, bite sized chunks and then schedule them in to your calendar)
  • Make them non-negotiable (prioritise your goals, and the requisite steps, as you would anything else that’s important in your life)
  • Reward yourself along the way (don’t wait until you reach your final destination but rather, give yourself a pat on the back or even something tangible for each and every positive step you take along the way)
  • And finally, be prepared to have setbacks (this shouldn’t be seen as a pessimistic statement but rather, a fact and reality. No one is perfect, and mistakes will happen. But these can be seen as positives if we learn and improve and discover how to do better next time)

Change is almost always easier said than done; but it is very much possible. And we can increase our chances of making positive changes if we’re realistic, if we plan and prepare, and if we make and follow a plan that includes all or most of the aforementioned strategies.

And remember, always, the profound words of John F. Kennedy…

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.

Do something and avoid the regrets of not doing anything!

Dr Happy

Please note: Dr Happy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic, please consult your healthcare professional.

Category:Mental Health

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